Word-of-Mouth and Referral Marketing Blog

Analyzing Starbucks’ Referral Program

Starbucks is one of the strongest brands around today, and naturally they have a loyalty system designed to encourage repeat customers. They have an interesting referral system built into their reward system.

A quick Twitter search shows that hundreds if not thousands of people are sharing their Starbucks referral links (and also, interestingly, that most people don’t bother to change the default sharing message): https://twitter.com/search?f=tweets&q=refer.starbucks.com&src=typd

1. Header image is classy and ‘high status’


One thing we’ve repeatedly found while running referral programs is that people often care more about status than money. So Starbucks is doing a very smart thing here by giving the rewards program an air of prestige, elegance and status with the “Gold”.

The visual of the two cups is also a nice touch, emphasizing the “shared experience” or “friendship” nature of the encounter. Everyone likes to have something to talk about with their friends, something to give them for free, so it’s foreseeable that Starbucks fans would be happy, eager and willing to refer their friends.

In an earlier iteration of the referral program, the advocate got “6 stars” (as a part of Starbucks’ Stars reward system) and the friend got a free drink:




Here’s a marketing analysis by a person who also happens to be a fan.

Referral Reward: what’s in it for the advocates:


It’s always a good idea to communicate the Referral Rewards clearly to the Advocate. What’s in it for me? Why am I doing this?

What might be helpful is to emphasize just how far 60 stars goes in the context of Starbucks’ Rewards system.

When you click on the referral link:




Not very exciting, but it’s simple enough.

You then need to add your card:


And finally,


What I particularly liked about all of this was the “Thanks for sharing” email:


I was just testing out the referral system, and yet I found myself feeling oddly touched and appreciated, and compelled to click on the “Invite More Friends” button. (Reciprocity, anyone?)


Read next: An Epic List of 47 Referral Programs


Visakan Veerasamy

Visa is ReferralCandy's former Blog Editor [2013–2018]. He also co-founded Statement.sg, a fashion ecommerce label selling witty t-shirts. He's mildly Internet-famous for his elaborate Twitter threads. He hopes to enjoy a glass of scotch onboard a commercial space flight someday.

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